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Amphi deals with deseg issues, iPads coming to TUSD students

The Tucson agenda

Amphi deals with deseg issues, iPads coming to TUSD students

A quick look at what's planned for local government meetings

  • COVID relief funds may buy 3,600 Tucson Unified School District students iPads if the governing board accepts grant money.
    kun530/FlickrCOVID relief funds may buy 3,600 Tucson Unified School District students iPads if the governing board accepts grant money.

The Tucson Unified School District may be out from under its desegregation scrutiny but the feds still have Amphi under a pair of corrective orders, which the school board will take up next week.

The Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board will vote on whether to approve its annual submission to the U.S. Department of Education regarding two initiatives meant to improve equal access to education.

The end of July is very light on the public meetings side for local elected officials (appointed commissions are meeting right, left and center, though). So we can take a few paragraphs to catch readers up on how Amphi got stuck in deseg purgatory.

It was back in 1991, when the U.S. Department of Education issued a Lau Corrective Order and ruled Amphi was violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Lau v. Nichols that schools must make provisions for English-language learners. 

The district then set about establishing policies and procedures to help students learn English, track their language acquisition and return students to into an English-learning program if they were falling behind. The "corrective orders" also required the district hire the faculty and staff to make the programs work. 

Finally, these deseg actions told the district to set up process to evaluate the programs success and report those findings to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

In 1992, the district was accused of punishing people of color differently than white students. The Department of Education investigated and the results were inconclusive but the district agreed to keep better records so any subsequent investigation could reach a finding.

The feds must be updated annually on the status of English-language learners and discipline records. The board has to approve that update.

That approval is what's on the agenda for July 26.

The district spends $4 million on programs under the heading of "desegregation" and collects a property tax of $0.25 per $100 of assessed valuation on properties.

In other business, the Amphi board will vote on agreements with the Oro Valley Police Department, the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Tucson Police Department for security at special events.

The board will also vote on a deal with the local company that schedules off-duty officers for this work.

iPads and countdown to launch

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will vote Tuesday on whether to accept a federal "Emergency Connectivity Grant" to buy 3,600 iPads for students.

Congress created the $7.2 billion grant program for the Federal Communications Commission when it passed the American Rescue Plan in 2021. How much did they cram into that bill and how long are we going to spending it?

It's good. America needs to get more tech in the hands of students and these devices will be filtered for educational content. So none of that InstaTokking or Wordle of Warcraft stuff kids are into today can be accessed... at least until they figure out how. I give it until October.

The labor shortage also appears to be prompting changes in the hiring practices of food service and white collar employees. The board is scheduled to consider changing the agreement with these employees to allow "legally separated" and fired workers to apply for jobs with the district. They are currently barred from rehiring but would be judged on a case-by-case basis.

And, finally, the district is set to open the 2022-23 school year with... well, maybe not a bang, but a command center and smart cards.

It's called the SKILL plan and it stands for (are you ready for the fun?) School Kick-off Initiative: Launching Learning. Where the district will launch learning remains a mystery. Hope it doesn't fall on the Iron Horse Neighborhood, because the Buffet Bar and Crockpot is a national treasure.

The program's stated goal is to have a gosh, golly great kick-off to the new school year. So they are training volunteers walking around with smart cards full of information after they learn how to engage in "active listening." If that doesn't work, they can call a command center staffed by 10-12 district employees.

I don't mean to be all "in my day," but in my day we just went to class picked up our schedules and shuffled between classes. I don't think we had to call Houston to discuss problems.

The "hall ladies" just scared the bejeus out of us so we kept our mouths shut around those grandmas of the Reich.

The board will vote on an updated agreement with the Tucson Education Association for the new year. The big changes relate to emergency substitute teaching, when no actual substitute can be found.

If a district employee covered by the agreement has to get shoved into emergency service teaching extra classes, then they will compensated up to $75 depending how long they are pressed into service.

No free lunch

The Tanque Verde Unified School District Board will vote on raising prices for school meals.

Prices are going up 25 cents for breakfast and 10 cents for lunch. The new prices will run $2.95 for middle and high school students and $2.80 for students at kids attending Tanque Verde Elementary School.  Breakfast prices will be $1.25 across at all sites.

Adults will pay $1.75 for breakfast and $3.50 for lunch.

The board will also vote on an Teacher Evaluation Instrument. Gotta love how public education types deploy the noun "instrument" as if it's some sort of precisely calibrated sensor that can accurately measure teacher metrics.

How one measure whether a teacher "facilitates the connections of students and families to the health and social services that support a focus on learning?" Is it a 2.7 or a 3.8?

The public wants to pay teachers for performance but it's not like measuring radiation or earthquakes.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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